Monday, January 21, 2008

My Tryst with the Ladle !!!

It was a bright Sunday morning. Having got up a bit earlier than usual, I was wondering how I was going to spend the rest of the day. I had hoped for a fantastic final day's play of the Perth test match, but unfortunately the match had got over on the penultimate day itself. I was really racking my brains as to how I was going to kill time. My mom showed up at that instant and told me something that really took me by surprise. Here goes the exact conversation.

B - Bharathram ; M - mom

M : ( Entering the room ) enna da, enna pannitrukkey ?
B : ( Sitting in front of the comp ) Onnum illa ma, summa than irukken
M : Seri , appo onnu pannu !!!
B : Enna, kadaiku ponumaa . . . athellam poga mudiyathu po ma
M : Athu illa da, inniku nee than samaikaanum !!!
B : ( Flabbergasted ) Ennathu , samaikkanuma ???
M : Aamaa da, nee than inniku samaikkanum.
( Music Blaring )
B : Yen, yenaachu unakku ? Udambu yedhavadhu sariyillaya ?
M : Muthala volume a kora da !!!
( Noise reduces )
B : Aam, ippo sollu . . .
M : Adhellam onnum illa . yenakku konjam vela irukku . So nee than panrey inniku . . .
B : But ma . . .
M : No further arguments. Poi kulichitu vandhu samaikka aarambi
B : Aiyo , sunday adhuvuma yen ma ipdi padutharey :-(

Hesitantly, I headed for the kitchen after a bath. I told my mom that my previous experience was a very bad one. This couldn't convince my mom & she told me don't worry things will turn out well this time. Being a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to have something special for lunch. But all I knew was just rasam & potato curry. Just as I was about to begin, my mom told me that instead of having rice for lunch, she suggested that I make roti & Dhal Makhani. I couldn't stop laughing at her suggestion & told her " Maa, naa rasame thataka buthaka nu than veppen . . . Yenna poi roti ellam panna solriye maa . . . " She then told me the entire procedure of making the dishes.

I first cooked the Dhal in the same manner as how rice is cooked. Then came the part of preparing the gravy. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger . . . my head was just spinning !!! One single dish - so many ingredients. Three- fourth of an hour is all that it took me & hot Dhal Maakhani was ready. Next was probably the most difficult part - preparing the rotis. Preparing the dough was relatively easy but rolling them was very difficult. Requires lot of practice, if you want them to be circular in shape. Well, mine was neither a circle nor a square. I would term it amorphous, but definitely palpable . . .

Phew !!! Preparing one simple dish had completely drained my energy. After munching down my lunch, I sat back & realized how our mothers toil hard in the kitchen day in and day out. And all, that we ve been doin is to eat nicely & chide her if the dish doesn't live up to our expectations . Spare a thought yaar !!! Atleast one day in a week, if we all take our mother's place in the kitchen - not only would it be relief for them, but would also enable us to learn cooking which would prove immensely useful to us in the future. Long live our mothers !!!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Sydney Test ~ A mixed Bag !!!

Five gruelling days of cricket and it would ve been a shame if the match ended in a tame draw. Australia emerged victorious in the end barely minutes before stumps were to be called, therby winning their 16 th consecutive test match - an astonisihng feat indeed !!! . India had clung in there for nearly 71 overs before the man with the "golden touch" Michael Clarke wrapped things up for the Aussies. The match had seen everything ~ some wonderful cricket, horrendous umpiring decisions and other controversies as well . . . Phew ! what more can we get from a test match ???

So a quick recap of events in the match starting with RP Singh's exploits with the ball reducing the Aussie score to 134/6. Enter Brad Hogg & Andrew Symonds, reviving them with a partnership of 173 runs. Aus finally ending with 463. India in relpy had VVS Laxman & Sachin Tendulkar carving out wonderful hundreds along with Sourav's useful 50 & some dogged and determined batting by the Indian tail. India surprisingly had taken a 69 run lead by the end of day 3 much to the surprise of everyone especially after the mauling they had taken at Melbourne.

In the second essay, Aus had Matthew Hayden & Mike Hussey slaming hundreds taking the Aus scoreline to 401-7 dec . Aus had given themselves a maximum of 72 overs to bowl at the Indians setting them a target of 333. With just 2 overs left for lunch, India came out to bat & had a horror start losing Wasim Jaffer in the very first over. The Indians tried hard but it was all over in the penultimate over of the day when Clarke had Ishant Sharma nicking one to the slips. Now, all these sequences gives the impression that the match was incident-free isn't it ? But, there were a lot too many of them in the course of the test match which might not go down well particularly with the Indian supporters.

Now many might complain the fact that both Ponting & Symonds had stood their ground instead of walking when replays had suggested that there was contact off the bat. Now the law does not state that a batsman must walk if he is out. Then what are the umpires for ??? I would blame this situation on technology. What technology has done is that, we are now able to scrutinize each and every ball from various frames and ultra-slow motion replays. Whereas the umpires out there have to take a decision within a second or two. Its easy to blast the umpires when we comfortably rest our behind, sitting on the couch and arrive at a decision after watching several replays. One might argue saying why not go for the 3 rd umpire's decision ? Sure, one can do that but it must not lead to a situation where every catch and LBW decision is referred to the 3 rd umpire, then you dont need the on-field umpires at all. Yes, they have made some glaringly bad mistakes in this game. Bucknor is way past his prime & probably needs to be spending some quality time with his grandchildren instead of commiting such blunders out there. Mark Benson seems to have lost everything : he's looking completely out of sorts and probably needs a break from the game.

There were instances when the 3 rd umpire should ve been consulted ; particularly when Symonds was stumped on 148 and the Michael Clarke catch to dismiss Sourav Ganguly. But the 3 rd umpire himself wasn't good either. He should ve given Symonds out stumped when on 48 but instead gave him the benefit of doubt !!! And with regard to the catches, its every players right to appeal for a catch. And I don't have any problems with Clarke appealing for the catch, but what went wrong was that Benson should ve gone to the third umpire instead of going by what Clarke & Ponting had said. They did seem quite confident but again TV replays showed otherwise. In my opinion, Simon Taufel, the best umpire in the world at the moment, should ve stood in this series. But since he happens to be an Aussie, & as the ICC follows a neutral umpire policy, he wasn't considered. If i say bring in Simon, there would be some opposition stating that he'd be biased and favour Australia. As Darwin said, its a survival of the fittest & Simon being the best should ve stood here. The ICC should also reconsider the umpires in the elite panel. Now it really is tough to beat Australia in their own backyard and when the rub of the green does not go your way, it makes matters even more worse. Commiserations to the Indian team but they had come up with a spirited display than what they had shown in Melbourne. Another incident that took the sheen off this test match was the alleged racist row between Harbhajan Singh & Andrew Symonds. I do not wish to comment on that as there are different versions of the story that I ve been hearing. Whatever it may be, there should be a zero-tolerance policy not only in cricket, but in every other sport as well.

The media plays a huge role in sport, no doubt about that. Indian media I feel survives mainly on two words - Glorification & Vilification. Had India won this test match, the media would have simply adored the cricketers stating that they ve beaten the lions in their own den etc. But now that they have lost, the media is using very strong words like cheated. The news channel might just be running a half-hour show to analyze the game but they run these clippings of shocking umpiring decisions for almost 25 mins leaving the remaining 5 minutes for commercials. This repeated telecast just rubs salt into the wounds of the supporters and infuriates them further.

The Indians also need to be disappointed for their dismal display in the second innings. Apart from Rahul dravid & Sourav Ganguly who received bad decisions, the rest just came apart. Jaffer has looked utterly uncomfortable in Australia. Sachin misjudged the bounce and length & played on to one. Yuvraj Singh, claimed as the future of India's batting, lacked application. Yuvi might have scored tons at home where the ball barely comes above your knee. It's here in Australia that he should ve shown his skill, instead he's just busy romancing with Deepika Padukone. Dhoni looked scratchy and padded up to a one that was clearly coming in. Lapse of concentration doing him in. Anil Kumble was the only stodgy performer with the bat, apart from Sourav. The Indians need to rethink their composition for the next game at Perth. Probably bring in Sehwag for Yuvraj and let Dravid in the middle order. It's going to take a lot for the Indians to regroup and come back strong in the next game.

As a strong Aussie supporter, I feel glad that the match has been won by Australia. The Aussies would be going for the kill in Perth where things don't favour the Indians one bit. Its going to be one hostile experience awaiting the Indians at Perth. I'm very eager at the moment to see Australia beat India at Perth & secure a memorable 17 th win on the trot thereby eclipsing their previous record of 16 successive wins. It'd be an icing on the cake indeed since it was India who had stopped Australia's dream run back in 2001. And now to beat them & go past number 16 would be the ideal situation that Ricky Ponting could have ever hoped for !!! Good luck Aussies . . .

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Billa Movie Review

BILLA – Probably the most hyped movie after Sivaji in recent times. So why all this hype about Billa – the reason’s pretty simple : It’s a remake of the 1980 Rajinikanth starrer. And as the box-office verdict goes, Billa has been declared a superhit.

It’s the stylish packaging – something new to Tamil Cinema – which is probably an important reason why this film goes down well with many. Starting from the credits added with some neat costumes with a stylish backdrop impresses you definitely. Billa surely is going to be a huge treat for all Thala fans. Ajith definitely means a lot in the movie when he says “ I am back .“

Kudos to director Vishnu Vardhan for his daring attempt to remake a Rajinikanth superhit and this move of his could well go on to become a trend-setter of sorts in Tamil Cinema. But Vishnu could have gone one step further by altering the storyline a bit. Instead Vishnu decides to play it safe with the same story, which probably is disappointing as it leads to a predictable sequence of events. The suspence part is missing in Billa, as it was in Don, one of the huge minuses of the movie. Comparisons are obvious in Indian Cinema and there defintely are going to be comparisons between Ajith’s Billa, Rajini’s Billa and even Shahrukh’s Don. To put it in a more simpler manner, Ajith’s Billa is the same old Rajini’s Billa but delivered in the same manner as Shahrukh’s Don.

Billa ( Ajith ), an international criminal is wanted by the police. DSP Jai Praksh played by Prabhu is in charge of the case and is determined to nab him. Ajith as Billa looks absolutely handsome, the wonderful costumes ( credit goes to Anu Vardhan ) add to the cause. But you get the feeling that he could have been made to look even more menacing considering the fact he’s playing a baddie. There’s hardly any dialogues for him, but Ajith delivers it through his style and looks. Rahman plays an important role in the movie as well. Namitha and Nayanthara have been casted to provide the ooomph and glamour. Nayanthara appears in Angelina Jolie style ( Tomb Raider ) and does look sensuous at times. Thankfully, there is not a single meaningless duet which would have drastically reduced the pace of the story.
There is one dialogue in the movie where Ajith says to Namitha ~ “I trust everyone. It's the devil inside them I don't trust ”, which has been blatantly lifted from the movie “ The Italian Job .“ The dialogues between Velu ( played by Ajith again ) and Jai are quite humorous. One particular dialogue where Velu says “Ayya adhu aru thala, naan orey thala” has all his fans jump with ecstacy. Not to forget the sequences where Santhanam appears. It ‘s a pity that he has just a couple of scenes in this movie. But Santhanam does makes an impact in the movie.

Yuvan Shankar Raja impresses with his music and background score. Yuvan has come out 6 tracks including the theme music , which is the pick of the lot. The 2 remixes – My Name is Billa & Vethalaiya Pottendi are impressive but Yuvan could have made it less noisy by emphasizing more on the voices than on the instruments. Yuvan definitely gets a thumb up for this work after all.

Dance is probably the missing item in Ajith’s repertoire and it is clearly evident in his introduction number – Seval Kodi Parakuthda . The slightly pot-bellied Ajith disappoints in his dance movements considering the fantastic beats in that number. One more aspect which the director could have avoided is the fact that almost all of the characters sport sunglasses in the movie. I assume that the director has done so for retaining the style factor. Nirav Shah is the cinematographer of this movie and I must say that he has done some splendid work behind the camera. Nirav captures the exotic locations of Malaysia in a scintillating manner.

Billa is defintely going to be a milestone in Ajith’s career and could probably elevate him to the next level, if he does choose his scripts carefully from now on. A courageous attempt by the director and a complete entertainer for all the viewers is the final verdict.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The four-letter word !!!

It really is surprising to note that four letter words play a very important role in our lives. Call it co-incidence or superstitiousness or crap [ another four letter word :-) ]. The very word life also happens to be a four-letter word. When things happen to go your way, people around you would say to themselves that its all due to luck. Similarly when things aren't going the way you'd like them to be, they'll just call it bad-time. It's the permutation and combination of all these factors that decide yet another four-letter word - FATE.

It's pretty common that four-letter words are used to shower abuses on others & we've got a cluster of words to make up that list. But one word that every student dreads the most & would love to avoid is exam. The mental stress that one undergoes in that particular phase during every semester is just indescribable. It is every student's desire to flush out the concept of exams from the curriculum. But life would be best only if it were like a roller coaster ride. Afterall, it's challenges like these that bring out the best in a person. To chase my dreams, I had to take up not one but two exams namely the GRE and TOEFL.

Having done with the exams, I thought the path was clear & the stage was set for my dreams t o come true. It was then that I realized that the exams were just stage one of one hell of a long process. So what was going to be next in the list ? The acronym that I hate the most - SOP. I had to spend sleepless nights preparing this wretched document, which many say, decides your admit. Another word that I'd like to curse is the word ~ reco in short for recommendation letter. Gee, I had to cook up stories to get the most prized document in my application package. So what's so special about this document ? It's one of those rare documents where you have your staff showering heaps of praises on you !!! Special indeed . . . Dispatching the application packages was another major headache that I had to deal with. The numerous address, envelopes, transcripts . . . Oh my God ! I'm glad that I'm done with this thing.

The most annoying four-letter word according to me is the word - wait. Any student having applied for his/her Masters would agree with me. As the saying goes, Patience is the greatest of all virtues. Alright, but the wait for an admit just seems everlasting. To make matters worse, if a known fella happens to get an admit before you do, that's it. To put it this way, all hell breaks loose. We would ve been very confident during the time of applying but as days pass by, the confidence dwindles gradually and desperation sets in. During this period of inquietude, the first thing that one does after geting up in the morning is to switch on the computer & log into their mail account. Your heart skips a beat for a second when you read the message - You have 1 unread message, only to find that its some useless forward from one of your friends. Or when you read the message - You have 0 unread messages, the vexation swells further & the instant reaction would be to bang your fists on the keyboard giving vent to your distress. I pity the keyboard for it has to bear all the frustration.

As of now, the vapid stage is on and I continue to wait for that elusive e-mail stating "Congratulations !!! You have been admitted to our university. " Hmmm . . . Wonder when I'm ever gonna get one such e-mail. Only time will tell !!! I remember Madhuri singing " Dhak Dhak Karne Laga . . . ' for a different reason though, but mine's definitely going Dhak Dhak for this reason :-) . . .

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poem on Friendship

It is by chance we met, by choice we became friends.
Friendship is a strange thing---
we find ourselves telling each other the deepest details of our lives,
things we don't even share with our families who raised us.
But what is a friend? A confidant? A lover?
A fellow email junkie? A shoulder to cry on?
An ear to listen? A heart to feel?...
A friend is all these things...and more.
No matter where we met, I call you friend.
A word so small yet so large in feeling,
a word filled with emotion.

It is true great things come in small packages.
Once the package of friendship has been opened,
it can never be closed.
It is a constant book always written
waiting to be read and enjoyed.
We may have our disagreements, we may argue,
we may concern one another,
friendship is a unique bond that lasts through it all.

A part of me is put into my friends,
some it is my humor, some it is my listening ear,
some it is real life experiences, some it is my romanticism
but with all, it is friendship.

Friendships forged are a construct stronger
than steel built as a foundation,
necessary for life and necessary for love.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jab We Met - Movie Review

I had no idea of what this movie was all about, until I happened to a grab a DVD of this movie yesterday. When I saw that the lead pair was Shahid Kapoor & Kareena Kapoor, my first reaction was this was going to be the same old boy meets girl, falling in love and culminating with marriage. Yes !!! my surmises were there in the movie after all, but not in the conventional manner in which they have usually been portrayed.

The movie begins with Adithya Kashyap ( Shahid Kapoor ) being plagued with problems. Trying to step into his father’s shoes, Adithya is left in a deep crisis, as his company’s shares hit an all-time low, products failing miserably and to make matters worse, his girlfriend dumps him and gets married off to someone else. Looks like the off-screen affair between Kareena & Saif seems to have hit Shahid hard as he wonderfully portrays the expressions of a stressed person. Seeking solitude, the despondent Adithya then begins his journey to nowhere. Enter Geet ( Kareena ), a total contrast in character to that of Adithya’s. The loquacious Geet, who is on her way to her hometown Bhatinda, pesters Adithya with her non-stop talking. Kareena fits the role of a talkative Punjabi girl to a T.

Her introduction scene where she gets into a running train, panting, and says her record of never having missed trains is still intact probably epitomizes her innocence. The scene where she gets down the train to pursuade Adhi to get into the train seems absurd. But the director compensates for that in the following scene where she again misses the train as a result of haggling with a vendor.

Adhi helps Geet get back to Bhatinda and is made to feel at home by the warmth and affection shown by Geet’s people. But Geet is bent on eloping away with her boyfreind Anshuman and seeks Adhi’s help. Chaos and confusion builds up when people in the house mistake that Geet has eloped with Adhi.

Humour is a strong-point of the movie and Kareena comes out on top with her goofiness. Scenes like the one in which they rent a room in a hotel and Kareena gets mistaken for a call girl makes you laugh your heart out. Also scenes like Geet’s relatives pampering Adhi to eat, Geet’s suggestion to Adhi that he marry her sister Roop, her drama to cancel the marriage by moving closer with Adhi stand out.

Nothing special about Pritam’s music. Background music too isn’t worth mentioning. Yeh Ishq Hai rendered by Shreya Ghoshal is the pick of the album. Screenplay is a huge letdown in Jab We Met. After the interval, the pace plummets and you can easily predict what’s going to happen next. Director Imtiaz Ali could have concentrated more on the second half. The manner in which Adhi dramatically changes his attitude seems way too cinematic. A better transition could have helped the movie’s cause. Influenced by Geet’s cheerful nature, Adhi restores normalcy in his problem-ridden life by staging a remarkable turnaround in a matter of few months.

Nine months after parting with Geet, her father happens to meet Adhi & asks for her whereabouts. Adhi promises to bring her back to Bhatinda in ten days. So Adhi goes to Manali to fetch Geet back to Bhatinda. But he’s in for a shock as he finds out that Geet hasn’t been with Anshuman all these months. Adhi eventually finds a grief-struck and gaunt looking Geet compouded with misery.

If it was Kareena who hogged the limelight in the first half, it’s Shahid’s turn in the second half. Shahid emotes excellently and overshadows Kareena in each frame, especially the scene in which he says to Kareena that she have her first affair with him after her marriage. Adhi reciprocates in the same the manner in which Geet helped him to regain lost confidence. Just when Adhi is about to join hands with Geet, Anshuman enters into the fray and all three make their way to Bhatinda for a wonderful and hilarious climax.

Many illogical scenes, dull music and faltering screenplay mar the beauty of the movie, which still comes out on top due to the chemistry of the lead pair. As far as Jab We Met is concerned, it’s the Shahid-Kareena show all the way !!!

Kalloori Movie Review

Balaji Shakthivel does it again !!!

Watching movies has become my favourite pastime now. I ve been watching a movie almost everyday & suddenly this brainwave of writing reviews for movies hit me. Today I watched the movie Kalloori and decided to step into this new avatar of writing reviews starting with this movie.

To be honest, it was because of Tamanna, that I was lured to watch this movie. The promos claimed it to be an ode to friendship and love, and they didn't disappoint me either. Director Balaji Shaktivel has once again carved out a realistic story in the form of Kalloori. If Kaadhal, his earlier movie, was considered good, he goes one step further in Kalloori. The maturity and experience that he has gained is clearly evident in all the scenes. Casting the right people is always a difficult task and the director pulls it off with ease in this regard. All the characters, seem like real life characters that we see in our day-to-day life. I guess this is probably the reason why the director went for such never-seen-before faces. All of them seem to have done justice to their role. Tamanna's casting is probably the director's master-stroke as she fits into the bill perfectly. Having seen her in a more glamorous and metropolitan kind of roles earlier, I wondered whether she would fit into the plot. My apprehensions were put to rest after watching the movie. Had any other current actress in the Tamil Industry being pitched in, instead of her, I don't think they would have carried out the role properly. Her fresh face suits that of a girl out of school and ready to enter college.

The very first scene stuck a chord in me. My gang of friends (10 as in the movie) too had the same wish - all of us joining the same college, but having had to take up engineering, our dreams still remain a distant dream. In this movie though, 9 students from class XII of Govt. Higher Secondary School get into the same course BA History in the same Govt. Arts College. Each one of them, being of different nature - a morally strict person, a glutton, a gullible person and so on. Circumstances force the Bangalore bred Shobana ( played by Tamanna ), an IAS aspirant to enter Govt. Arts College in a remote district in Tamil Nadu. The somber and sullen looks sported by Tamanna initially and the reason she states for being so moves you. Touched by the kind gestures and warmth her fellow classmates exhibit towards her, Shobana develops a rapport with the remaining 9 members and there begins a strong friendship amongst them.

Ramesh played by Bharani is the standout artiste amongst the new faces. His timely dialogue delivery and expressions has you in splits during the first hour of the movie. Muthu ( played by Akhil ),the hero who plays a sprinter in the movie, has very few dialogues but his performance, on the whole is good. The trauma that he undergoes when deciding between friendship & love has been brought out well by the director. The head-banging by the old man in the introduction number is also worth mentioning here. The cultural event where Muthu's friends perform the western & Bharatnatyam dances are rib-tickling. Ramesh's Bharatnatyam jig, in particular where he forgets the steps, and does the dappan-kuthu movements are a delight to the viewers.
The inseparable duo, who appear in the movie raise a smile on your face but they could have underplayed a little during their introduction scene. Certain scenes seem a bit monotonous and on a few occasions, the inexperince of all the artists is pretty evident as well. One particular scene where Shobana arrives almost immediately after Muthu misses the bus and offers him a lift, could have been portrayed in a better manner. Also the scene where Muthu lifts his performance on the track after hearing that Shobana was waiting for him seems a bit artificial.

Scenes like the one preceding the climax, where Shobana speaks her heart out to KayalVizhi and the scene where Salima loses her father had me in tears - particularly the latter. Why I liked the movie is because I was able to corelate the scenes of the movie with incidents amongst my friends. I had gone to the movie without reading any reviews, as I felt that it would dampen the expectations. The director, I should say, has definitely exceeded my expectations.

The storyline is very simple and natural. The dialogues deserve a special kudos. Cinematography by Chezhiyan is good as well. Sasikumar's editing is probably at its best in the Sariya Idhu Thavara number. Joshua Sridhar's music complemented well with Na. Muthukumar's lyrics captures a place in your heart. It is the lyrics that keeps the music alive. Lines like "Unnakul Olindhirukkum Unadhu Thiramaigalai Natou Inam Kandu Uyarthumey . . ." ( meaning the hidden talents in you will be brought out only by friendship ) in the June July number stand out.

Just when you think that this is going to be yet another . . . "And they lived happily ever after" kind of ending, the director springs a surprise in the climax scene. The climax scene, which blends well with the story, leaves a huge lump in your throat and you will feel that chill race during your spine during the climax sequence. Today was one of those very rare days where I was in tears after watching a movie. So realistic !!!

Amidst a plethora of movies today, which are merely a conglomeration of action, romance, sentiment, meaningless punch dialogues, unnecessary item numbers and obscene scenes, Kalloori is definitely a cut above the rest.